THE SILENT BULLET is a collection of mystery stories by Arthur B. Reeve featuring Professor Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective. Arthur Reeve, 1880-1936, published eighty-two Craig Kennedy stories in Cosmopolitan magazine between 1910 and 1918. They were later collected in a matched twelve volume set(wonder what that would cost today). Kennedy also appeared in eighteen novels. I found a quote listed as by Thomas Edison about this book, “very ingenious and new.”
Reeve began writing for movies in 1914 and reached his stride from 1919-20 with his name on seven films, mostly serials with Harry Houdini starring in three of them.
The Kennedy character appeared in a variety of magazines such as Dime Detective, Weird Tales, Country Gentleman, World Man Hunters, Complete Dime Novel Magazine, and others. Many of the later ones appeared ghost-written(the style and tenor different from the stories published in the teens years. A series of six novelettes were known to be rewritten from unsold stories by A. T. Locke. There was even a 1951 TV series starring Donald Woods as Kennedy.
Craig Kennedy has often been called the American Sherlock Holmes. And in deed the story structure was similar, the stories narrated by Kennedy’s apartment mate, Walter Jameson, a reporter. Jameson had that same naivete that Watson suffered, presuming to figure out cases at times, only to be gently slapped down by Kennedy. He also had that weakness, and belief in the innocence, for women they encountered.
Kennedy, a college professor, espouses that criminology needs to be taught in school. The stories here involve all those new crime detection stuff like fingerprints, lie detectors, photographing relevant evidence. In fact, Kennedy employs quite a few devices in his pursuit of the truth(hidden microphones, dictographs, he brings a dead man back to life with jolts of electricity) and uses techniques new at the time(blood spatter analysis, tests for determining human blood from animal).
Twelve tales in this first volume. here’s a listing with a bit of plot on each.
1: THE SILENT BULLET: right in the middle of a board meeting, the chairman gets a certified letter, reads it, frowns, and gets up, clapping hand to neck as he walks over to the window where he collapses, dead from a bullet in that neck. The certified letter disappears in the confusion and no one in the room hears a gunshot or sees any flash.
2: THE SCIENTIFIC CRACKSMAN: a man is found dead lying before his open safe, a large sum of money still inside. The death is ruled apoplexy. Kennedy is not satisfied.
3: THE BACTERIOLOGICAL DETECTIVE: a whole family and their servants have come down with typhoid. The family was particularly careful about disease. How did it happen? And was it deliberate? If so, why?
4: THE DEADLY TUBE: Kennedy helps a vain woman learn the true reason for her dermatological problems
5: THE SEISMOGRAPH ADVENTURE: a rich woman, beautiful and in the prime of her life, is found seated in a chair, dead. Was it suicide, sudden death, or murder?
6: THE DIAMOND MAKER: a story of synthetic diamonds and a con man.
7: THE AZURE RING: a young couple is found dead in the bride’s family library the day before their wedding. A week later no one is sure if it was accidental from a malfunctioning brazier, murder-suicide, double suicide, or double murder.
8: “SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION”: a man is found dead in his living room burned from the waist up, with no burning anywhere else in the room except for the fireplace. And the will, the only copy, is missing.
9: THE TERROR IN THE AIR: two pilots have been killed in testing of a new gyroscope flying machine. The inventor will go broke if sabotage is not proved(he’s suing another company for copyright infringement), facing wrongful death suits from the deceased pilots’ families, and may be unable to enter a contest worth $25,000 for the first hovering aircraft.
10: THE BLACK HAND: it was in all the papers. A famous Italian tenor’s five year old daughter had been kidnapped and ransom demanded by a criminal organization. A new letter promises death for the child and another family member if the police are informed.
11: THE ARTIFICIAL PARADISE: the revolution to free the South American country Vespuccia is on. $500,000 has been captured from the ruling military and was on the way to New York to exiled leaders of the junta. One of the leaders has disappeared and the money as well. His daughter says he’s innocent. She’s the only one.
12: THE STEEL DOOR: a mother wants a crooked gambling club that’s draining her only child, a son, of their small estate put out of business. O’Connor, Kennedy’s police friend, calls on him for help. The three inch thick steel door would make a raid tough.
THE SILENT BULLET is available on Amazon in a variety of formats(hardcover, paperback, POD, kindle). I found my copy on Project Gutenberg and enjoyed the stories so much that I’ve already downloaded volumes two and three and will get to them in due course.
For more Forgotten books, check out PATTINASE.